E glimpses of Sarah and her ilk rom which Jo Baker spun this tale Longbourn is simply tremendous It s the world of Austen made real Austen in context with all the mud and blood and shit that comes with that And it s so deep and beautiful and heart stoppingly real that I m in awe I didn t expect to The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War feel so strongly about Longbourn when Iirst picked it up but it s Experiencing the Resurrection: The Everyday Encounter That Changes Your Life far and away one of the best books I ve read in the past year Highly recommended It s become a cliche to love Jane Austen s books Her oeuvre is so popular that it has inspired a vast amount ofan iction much of it crap I ve been a Janeite or about 15 years and have read all of Miss Austen s works excepting her Juvenilia which I m saving or a rainy day I ve also picked up dozens of the an novels in an effort to extend the stay in her world I say picked up rather than read because a great deal of the Babes in Toyland: The Making and Selling of a Rock and Roll Band fanfic is insufferable and must be tossed after theirst chapterLongbourn is one of the exceptions The simple description is that it is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice The Meaning of Star Trek from the servants point of view But it goes deeper than just a retelling Longbourn made the Bennet home come alive For theirst time in all of my readings of PP I Mirage: Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt felt as if I lived in the same house as Miss Elizabeth Jane Kitty Lydia Mary and Mr and Mrs Bennet I know what time the housemaids got up to light theires and draw the water I know when the cook began preparing the dinner I know how the linens got washed and how muddy it was to walk to Meryton to get supplies I even know a ew secrets about the housekeeper that would have surprised Miss AustenAnd this is where the two novels diverge Jo Baker has created ull characters out of the servants who are almost invisible in PP The story is mostly told by Sarah a housemaid who has been working at Longbourn since she was orphaned at age 6 The cook Mrs Hill thinks of Sarah as Frommer's Irreverent Guide to Walt Disney World family and is worried what will happen to the staff if the estate is entailed away to Mr Collins I liked having the servant s perspective on this well known plot line it was a good reminder of how many people were actually affected by Mr Bennet s lack of a male heirThe story picks up uickly when a newootman named James Smith is hired Sarah thinks James has a secret and is determined to ind out about his past Meanwhile her head is turned by a handsome servant who works or Mr Bingley Sarah who reminded me a bit of the headstrong Jane Eyre thinks that life should be something than just emptying chamber pots every day and always washing other people s linens If only someone would take notice of SarahI should warn diehard PP Dump Truck Trouble/Lets Build a Doghouse! fans that if you re hoping to spend time swooning over Mr Darcy you will be disappointed Asiderom Mr Wickham who likes to lurk around the servants and tries to seduce a young maid the men Sometime After Midnight from PP are only on the periphery of this story You ll see of the Bennets as the servants interact with them but the downstairs plot takes its own pathBaker s prose is lovely and I was enchanted with almost all of the book My one criticism was that too much time was spent on James back story and I was anxious to return to Longbourn But that is a mere uibble in an otherwise wonderful novel Three cheersor Jo Baker Stop Inflammation Now!: A Step-By-Step Plan to Prevent, Treat, and Reverse Inflammation--The Leading Cause of Heart Disease and Related Conditions for bringing the Bennet home to lifeIn addition to Longbourn my recommendationsor the best Jane Austen Eyes Behind the Lines: L Company Rangers in Vietnam, 1969 fanfic are Pamela Aidan s An Assembly Such as This part I of a trilogy Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken and Amanda Grange s series of gentlemen s diaries such as Mr Darcy s Diary Mr Knightley s Diary Colonel Brandon s Diary etc I declare them charming and delightful reads I readive chapters and then I admitted defeat I threw up my arms through a sea of School Dazed frothy pinkluff and pushed it aside
"AND EMERGED IF NOT A BETTER "emerged if not a better then at least a relieved one with one less cloud in my worldTo be air I m not the audience or any kind of romance except perhaps classics But I am Chinese Fairy Tales Fantasies: Folio Society Edition fascinated with Jane Austen and having recently read AA Milne s superlative stage play Miss Elizabeth Bennet Ielt I would like to read books directly descended rom Pride and Prejudice After Colin Firth is it possible to Have Too Much Darcy Is It Possible too much Darcy Is it possible have too much chocolate Is it possible to have too much candy loss Yes to the last sadly it is And was DNFA note on the writing It wasn t Jane Austen It wasn t AA Milne It wasn t bad in any way But it was perfectly one note shallow clear and descriptive and left me in no doubt that what I saw was what I got That s all Maybe this is par or the genre If you enjoy period romances then you might love the book this review is my impression and not one that should influence you in any way Reposted rom my review at AustenBlogThe publication of Jo Baker s new novel Longbourn generated the same sort of excitement as the arrival of a single gentleman of good Cooking for Company: All the Recipes You Need for Simple, Elegant Entertaining at Home fortune It has been described as being a cross between Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey When we heard this premise we were all admiration What Hoo boyWhere do I startActually that s easy Any review of Longbourn shouldeature this warning right at the top If you are an Austen purist this book will give you a stroke and a heart attack and possibly cancer So there s thatOh also Any novel written by a non servant is apparently reuired by law to eature at least one passage in which a character who is a servant will ponder life as a person of leisure and decide Naw Overrated Yeah THAT happenedI wanted to adore this book because I m tired of people talking about how lovely life was in the Regency No it wasn t Not even if you were rich although that was miles better than being poor Even if you were rich there was no plumbing very little in the way of social mobility and nothing remotely resembling a maxi pad let alone a tampon Not even in spite of what the author of Longbourn says any napkins Where would you put one There wasn t anything in the way of underwear as we know it See Susanne Alleyn s awesome Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders or convincing evidence of thatThere was no reliable birth control and no uick and easy My Wifes Affair foodor those nights when you just don t Dîwana Jan feel like cooking Women spent all day preparing or looking after the work ofood preparation and routinely wrote their wills when they became pregnantThere were no no ault divorces and very ew he s TOTALLY at ault divorces even if your husband was an adulterous batterer And I m saving the worst or last here there was NO CHOCOLATE Okay there was a drink called chocolate but it was outrageously expensive and it wasn t sweetI love Austen s novels but I have no illusions about the era in which she lived and wrote I worked as a live in domestic myself and I m constantly thinking about the servants who made those leisured lives possibleSo I was excited to read Longbourn a retelling of Pride Prejudice rom the vantage point of one of the Bennet s housemaids I was sold when I read the pull uote every review eatured If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats Sarah often thought she d most likely be a sight careful with themPerfect Think about that the next time you read the scene in PP where Lizzy shows up at Bingley s house with her petticoat three inches deep in mudI admire Jo Baker s determination to show the story Naples! from a different angle Her premise is solid her prose beautifulSo why am I so put out by this bookPartly because it s a bummerrom beginning to end It s Les Miserables without the The Curious Cases of Cyriack Skinner Grey funny musical numbers I think it s just as dehumanizing to servants to assume their lives are endless misery as it is to ignore them Yes this book has a happy ending technically But it starts out bleak it continues dire and it crosses theinish line with a vague So that turned out okay I guessSpeaking of bleak Anyone who s read Bleak House will probably not Itsuka find the surprise middle of Longbourn particularly surprising Many who have read PP willind aspects of it offensive Jo Baker takes a lot of liberties with PP I never thought of myself as a purist but this bothered me For instance she insists on ollowing the heavily trod trodden trode whatever path of Mary Bennet being infatuated with Mr Collins Know what it says in the book about that Mary might have been prevailed on to accept him She rated his abilities much higher than any of the others there was a solidity in his reflections which often struck her and though by no means so clever as herself she thought that if encouraged to read and improve himself by such an example as her s sic he might become a very agreeable companionShe thinks he s a ixer upper my husband commented when I read this to him But everybody movie makers Austen seuel writers somehow turns this into Mary adoring Mr Collins rom afar and longing to have him as her own And of course Baker ollows suitShe also eatures uotations rom PP at the beginning of every chapter Except in the lashback section where they wouldn t make sense Except I
DON T THINK THEY MAKE SENSE t think they make sense What are they supposed to be Messages rom GodAnyway Back to the liberties Mary s in love Mr Collins is a really nice guy not at all pompous or judgmental Mr Bennet has a lot of lines and one of them is cuttingly sarcastic One Are you ishing meSpeaking of ish Baker talks about it a lot By name It is apparently everywhere in Regency England You couldn t open your carriage door without smacking into a load of ish I m surprised the publisher didn t offer a special scratch and sniff edition of Longbourn just to get the point across Point being Wow you guys was there a lot of manure in the bad old daysYou know what there wasn t The kind of 21st century thinking Baker gives her miserable underclass characters The line about how Miss Bennet could be a little careful of her things was perfect But there s no way a teenaged maidservant in the eighteenth century was thinking Really no one should have to deal with another person s dirty linen Really This little revolutionary decided all on her own not that laundry day sucks a sentiment that holds true to this very day but that all people should have the doing of their own underthings Similarly Mrs Hill the housekeeper is often burdened by Mrs Bennet s emotional demands Mrs Hill has uite enough work to do to ill her day already without having to offer a shoulder to cry on just when the bread is rising That works I love thatThis very Mrs Hill overworked miserable a character who seems to exist only to be taken advantage of is the one who decides near the end of the book that really there s not much difference between living as a servant and being a genteel lady The end was all the sameI mentioned this is a happy book rightThe writing is very very good The author has clearly done her research and it shows without seeming show offyBut in the end this book was just A Bummer. Ke us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry eyed kitchen maid into the gritty daily particulars aced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars and in doing so creates a vivid Fancy Strut fascinatingully realized world that is wholly her own?. ,
Ew copy received Northern California: A History and Guide - From Napa to Eureka from Edelweiss Three and a Half Stars In the Author s Note at the end of Longbourn Jo Baker writes Oneinal note in Pride and Prejudice the ootman appears just once in the text when he delivers a note to Jane page 31 of Volume One in my Penguin Classics edition After that he is never mentioned again Well that is an undeniable act But what are we to glean rom this tidbit That Baker ound her inspiration rom this one tiny glimmer into the world behind the scenes That Austen was remiss in showing only the Upstairs of early nineteenth century English country life Much has been written about Jane Austen s omission of socio political context in her novels but in the end we are left with the stories as she chose to tell them Full stopIn the same author s note Jo Baker tells us she has interfered only so ar as the give names to the unnamed the butler A Sally Lockhart Mystery 2 footman and the second housemaid There ensued a great spluttering of coffee coughing and general wiping up The plot itself depends upon interferences large and small Early on Mrs Hill the Bennet s cook and housekeeper enters Mr Bennet s library and closes the door A central twist of the story is predicated on a very mighty interference indeed I m not convinced that anyone who has read Pride and Prejudice can accurately assess whether Longbourn could stand on its own a story complete Wellor heaven s sake of course it couldn t It wouldn t exist without Pride and Prejudice But that s not really what I mean I mean that it s built upon the backs of Austen s characters Little has to be done by way of introducing or maintaining this supporting cast which is what the Bennet I Love My Dad femmes et homme and their society neighbors are in this below stairs account of life at Longbourne We who know Elizabeth Darcy and Wickham have already colored between those lines and need little in the way ofurther All about Us fleshing out For thisirst half of this novel I said a resounding No There is no there here Longbourn although ar rom an Austen pastiche reads like a meticulously researched and lovingly crafted vignette of servant life in a middle class Regency home There seems to be little point beyond showing the difficulties and deprivations of a life in service and to point out that even in Georgian England people pooped masturbated and menstruatedThen the novel enters its stride Although I never lost the twitch of discomfort that Jo Baker was trying to make up Noni Speaks Up for some absence of verisimilitude in the original the characters begin to live on their own accord as if the author herself snipped the ties constraining her to Pride and Prejudice It s somewhere around the time Wickham ventures into the kitchen to leer at Polly and we see each servant s response to his trespass that weully Handbags and Gladrags finally enter the world of distinct complete characters who have to offer than chilblains and chamber pots Baker won me over however with Longbourn s enigmaticootman James Smith She creates a haunting portrait of a soldier s experience during Napolean s Guerilla war in Spain and Portugal Eually moving though much briefer is a recounting of Mrs Hill s troubles at Longbourn in the era before she became Mrs Hill From these points An Egg-cellent Easter! (Barbie) forward the characters above stairs become than ciphers and those below stairs develop backstories and backbones Jo Baker s writing though at times heavy handed with the metaphors is lovely She maintains aormal dignified diction that eels just right or the period and place without trying to emulate Austen s vivacity and wit She sprinkles in jarring vulgarities and peers inside chamber pots to let us know if they contain solids as well as liuids all of which seems a bit Wish Upon a Wedding forced as if she were trying too hard to distance herselfrom Austen gentility but the moments are brief and tolerable Longbourn is a very engaging and enjoyable read The uality of writing is such that I will seek out Jo Baker s other novels and look orward to her next though I hope she is inished outfitting 19th century classics with 21st century hindsight When Lizzie Bennet went traipsing through the muddy Renovations: A Father and Son Rebuild a House and Rediscover Each Other fields mooning over Mr Darcy someone had to do wash those muddy petticoats When Mrs Bennet wasainting Richard Nixon: The Life from the strain of arranging suitable marriagesor her countless daughters someone had to etch the smelling salts While the ladies of the Bennet amily spent their time in the leisurely ashion of gentlewomen in music and sewing and art and dancing and attracting promisingly rich husbands someone had to run the household cook endless dinners do laundry empty the chamber pots shovel the pig shit clean the outhouse run errands scrub loors travel to the village and surrounding estates through the rain and mud and do anything and everything to allow the cream and crop of gentle society to enjoy their leisurely lives that made Austen s novels such great escapist reading If Elizabeth had the washing of her own petticoats Sarah often thought she d most likely be a sight careful with them This is a story of those someones the characters that were lost in the background of the shiny glossy lives of the rich and mighty in the timelessly alluring Pride and Prejudice Invisible in the refined society and therefore the original book pages they are allowed to take center stage here Perhaps that was why they spoke instructions at her Puppet Master from behind an embroidery hoop or over the top of a book she had scrubbed away their sweat their stains their monthly blood she knew they weren t as rarefied as angels and so they just couldn t look her in the eye Unlike Austen s novel that inspired the book and upon theamiliarity with which the plot of this one hinges Longbourn lacks the escapist allure of humor and attractiveness Instead it is serious and often bleak which makes sense as it is deliberately Swoon: The Heartthrob Activity Book for Good Color-Inners as Well as Beginners focused on the unglamorous aspects of life in Austen s world Unglamorous sufficiently to give me enough details about chamber pots and the outhouse and menstrual blood stains to last meor a very long time really Would she at some time have the chance to care Janae (Blacktop, for her own things her own comforts her own needs and not justor other people s Could she one day have what she wanted rather than rely on the glow of other people s happiness to keep her warm Sarah is a young housemaid an orphan raised in the Bennett s estate of Longbourne Despite being the same age as Lizzie Bennet and living in her house Sarah s life and Lizzie s life might as well be in different universes Overworked and tired because Bennets preferred lifestyle and their modest by the rich landowners standards means do not always align Sarah s concerns are not the leisurely pursuits of respectably rich matrimony but rather the endless house chores and chilblains and blisters rom her work and the knowledge that very little in her life belongs to her Her destiny is to grow old caring or the needs and wants of others and she is encouraged to be grateful or this lot in life to ind satisfaction in her duties to be content with stability that such sad existence brings But lot in life to ind satisfaction in her duties to be content with stability that such sad existence brings But s hard to settle or just that isn t it This she reflected as she crossed the rainy yard and strode out to the necessary house and slopped the pot s contents down the hole this was her duty and she could ind no satisfaction in it and ound it strange that anybody might think a person could She rinsed the pot out at the pump and left it to Why Diets Make Us Fat freshen in the rain If this was her duty then she wanted someone else s Going into this book I expected or less a retelling of Pride and Prejudicerom the below the stairs point of view And to a point yes this story depends on you being amiliar with Austen s book the plot and the characters But those characters stay mostly behind the scenes and the events that mattered so much in
s story are conseuential in this one All the Bingley and Darcy dramas are not even noticed Lydia s elopement is important only because of sheer disturbance it causes in the domestic life Otherwise the life below stairs is shaped much by the everyday life occurrences and the storms in the lives of Pride and Prejudice characters barely cause ripples in the lives of Longbourn bunchIt s all just a background noise or the servants who are occupied with pressing issuesOf course some characters end up diverging a bit Spanish Dagger (China Bayles, from Austen s novel like it or hate it I m not an Austen purist or even her particularan so to me it was just Everyday life in medieval times fine but it may irk aew of her devoted North fans with the subtle and not so subtle digs at the characters Mr Collinsor instance is not the appallingly dull human being but a rather average man who is nice to servants Darcy pops in or half a minute if that The source of Bingley s amily money is shown to be beyond unsavory and repellent Mrs Bennet is certainly sympathetic and less of a buffoon that she comes off in Austen s book And Mr Bennet is revealed to have some secrets that certainly do not paint him in the best light It had been a dreadful miscalculation she saw that now that all of them should be unhappy so that he should not be disgraced The language of the book is also not meant to carry on Austen s wit and humor and sparkle Just like the choice to show the grittierAusten S Story Are
And Dirtier Part Of Life In Thedirtier part of life in the world the language here is meant to be harsher and rougher and serious And the sensibilities are certainly betraying the time it was written in a couple of centuries after the originalAnd I liked it a lot The real everyday issues of the working people were connecting with me much than the leisurely dramas of Austen s novels perhaps because I can t really relate to the life of wealth and leisure and lazy mornings and boring afternoons Jane Austen s book is lovely and beautiful but I also love this one as its grittier less refined working companion4 ish stars and a plan to reread Pride and Prejudice with thoughts of the lives of those invisible in that novel uietly working in kitchens and stables and carrying out those ever present chamber pots You ll think that I m being silly and hyperbolic when I say books like this are the purpose that historical Dead Giveaway fiction is meant to serve but I mean it very sincerely Don t pick this book up wanting to swoon over Elizabeth and Darcy or expecting the narrativeocus to be on the story Austen told in PP It s not about that It s about giving voice to the voiceless Andrew Lost In the Kitchen fleshing out the ghosts that would otherwiseade and be shred to pieces before the onslaught of time Blue coat black horse that was Mr Bingley The great tall Strange Son: Two Mothers, Two Sons, and the Quest to Unlock the Hidden World of Autism fellow in the green was Mr Darcy again They clipped past the orchard in profile and oblivious to the housemaids Sarahelt herself Nope fade She could see the leaves and branches through her hand the sun shone straight through her skinAnd now I can t wait to go back through PP anderret out all th. E laundry polishing the Rejected Rejected Rejected floors and emptying the chamber potsor the Bennet household But there is just as much romance heartbreak and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs When a mysterious new ootman arrives the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely perhaps irrevocably upended Jo Baker dares to ta.